- Developer: Vicarious Visions
- Publisher: Activision Blizzard
- Release Date: 26/03/2021
- Price: £49.99 / $49.99
- Review code provided by Activision
Introducing: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 review on Xbox Series S
Well kids, here’s a fun fact. The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater title was released on the PlayStation in September 1999. That was a different millennium! The chances are some people reading this weren’t even born then. Wild!
Now, here we are 22 years later experiencing this timeless classic, along with its sequel and a whole slew of QOL features, in stunning 4K, with a faultless framerate and super-fast load times. One thing, however, remains. This is a faithful remaster of the best titles in the Tony Hawk series, reflecting the very essence of this iconic franchise. For better and worse.
First and foremost, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of proceedings – the gameplay! The good news is, for long-time fans of the series and returning players, it controls exactly as you remember it. Upon the initial load, you’ll be offered the chance to run through a tutorial. It’s likely been fifteen years since I played and so I decided to jump in. After three or four stages it became obvious that I would not need to linger on the training ramps any longer, my muscle memory providing me the perfect platform to go head first and jump straight back into the Nosegrind.
The curious case of Benjamin Button-bashing
As an “experienced” player, the pick-up and play approach is welcome. I’m old, I don’t want games to have lengthy tutorials that make me learn a shed-ton of information before letting me enjoy the game. It’s part of the reason I adore Nintendo’s philosophy of creating a tutorial environment within the game’s first few levels. By the same token, as an older player, I found that the frenetic nature of the gameplay caused me slight discomfort during expanded gameplay sessions as, unfortunately, the dated gameplay is essentially organised chaos; premeditated button bashing. As Anakin Skywalker once mused aggressive negotiations. Or, negotiations with a lightsaber. I hate sand.
Digressions aside, playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a mixed bag. It hits dizzying highs, when you successfully navigate an entire run of the level Downhill Jam, combo-ed up to the wazoo. On the flip side, when you’re attempting to shift from one rail to another and clip the scenery, only to be sent off on a perfect 90-degree tangent, its dated demeanor is in full view.
The general gameplay loop is fairly straightforward. Head to a skatepark or area of a city that has been converted into a skateable arena, tick off tasks from the levels-specific checklist, during a two-minute run, and complete enough to unlock more levels. Every few levels you’ll enter a competition which will consist of three, one-minute runs. The score from your best two heats are used and if you rank in the top three, you’ll get a medal and be able to proceed.
Remember, the mods are people too
To unlock everything, you’ll have to utilise all of your best skills and combos because, as the game progresses, the tasks become more and more testing. It’s worth noting that it’s possible to manual in the base game content, which wasn’t possible in the original and only implemented in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. When you set out on your career, you can either play a solo campaign or contribute to the group effort. The group option is a fine choice for trying out different characters, whilst steadily progressing through the game. If you want to gain enough stat points to level up all of your characters, however, you’re going to have to play through individual campaigns.
If you find yourself in need of a little help, you can turn on modifiers that will give you an edge. Having trouble with a particularly tricky sick score, turn on perfect rail balance or manual balance. In fact, why not both?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, for 1 and 2 players
Aside from the main game modes, covering the first two titles in the series, there’s also a Ranked and Free mode that allows you to head to any of the game’s courses and get some chill time in. You can simply choose free skate, opt for speed skate which tasks you with completing all of the levels challenges, as quickly as possible or choose a single session that gives you a 2-minute slot to rack up as high a score as possible. The Single and Timed sessions also have global leaderboards, should you wish to see how you stack up against gamers, the world over.
There are multiplayer options a-plenty, with local mode offering competitive couch challenges in abundance. You can choose to free skate, compete for the highest score in trick attack, engage in a classic round of HORSE, or choose from one of the many more game modes. On the Xbox Series S, Tony Hawk’s Pro skater performed faultlessly in local-multiplayer. Online multiplayer was a roaring success too, technically at least, with a combination of my Fibre Broadband and Xbox Gold Live (through Gamespass Ultimate) providing a secure platform to join the masses and test my skills against the best that the internet has to offer. Suffice to say, I’m not nearly as good as most of the people I came up against.
Looking good, Tony!
The most striking thing to mention is just how opulent this remaster is. Through a mix of HD textures, HDR lighting effects, and ray tracing, the Tony Hawk’s remaster literally shines on next-gen consoles. Seriously, the thing that really stands out is just how well lighting is used to elevate the familiar locales, spanning the two titles. It’s irrefutably incandescent. Beyond the sumptuous sunrises and sunsets, the textures have been completely reworked. Unsurprising for a 22-year-old-title. Every plank, rail, brick, deck, valve, pavement slab, and fountain has been completely modernised, bringing the aesthetic of the title up to modern standards.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater looks very nice indeed, no more so than in the Venice Beach level. As you ride the rails like a person possessed, the sun reflects off of the surface of the park, and as you make your way to the rooftop, the sprawling ocean refracts the sun’s rays across its surface, all the while sailboats potter atop the water at their own pleasure.
Sound as a pound
Like most of you around my age, you likely fondly remember the Tony Hawk’s soundtrack. For a lot of us, certainly this side of the pond, it was our first real experience of the pop-punk scene that was, at the time, barnstorming across the States. While bands such as Blink 182 really brought it to the mainstream, it was a movement that had deeply resonated with the youths of America long before Tom, Mark and Travis brought their three-chord-palm-muted-melodies to our ears.
My point being, the tunes you remember are all present and just as infectious as they were, two decades ago. There is also the welcome addition of newer songs which breeds further familiarity. Unfortunately, someone also greenlit the inclusion of an MGK track on the playlist. Thankfully, for this humble hack, it’s possible to curate your own playlist, including and excluding tracks from the impressive library as you see fit. If you just want to jump into the action, however, and not mess around with back-end tomfoolery such as playlists, a simple push of R3 at any time, will skip to the next song.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater friends
Aside from the titular Birdman himself, a whole host of original skaters return including but not limited to, Bob Burnquist, Kareem Campbell and Rune Gilfberg, along with newcomers Leo Baker, Leticia Bufoni and Lizzie Armento. As well as the IRL skaters, Officer Dick makes a welcome return as an unlockable character and if you’re affluent enough to pick up the Deluxe Edition, you’ll be treated to The Ripper. Who is literally a skeleton.
If the eclectic array of skaters on offer doesn’t provide your overly picky persona with a suitable choice, then you can head over to the create-a-skater mode, where you can, well, create a skater. You can alter their appearance, edit stats, choose stance and push style and the in-game shop allows you to add tattoos and clothing items too. You can only create four custom skaters, but unless you’re a huge Party of Five fan, you should be fine.
Skate, create and stay up late
Sticking with the creation theme, there’s one helluva toolset present that allows you to create and then share your own dream skatepark. The sandbox is simple enough to get the hang of allowing layers of complexity depending on how far down the rabbit hole you’re willing to go with it. While I haven’t (as of yet) dedicated a huge amount of time to this particular mode, I spent a fair share of time pursuing the creations of others and was left thoroughly impressed by the creative ingenuity that people possess. If a day comes when you find yourself bereft of content left to explore, then heading to the create-a-park section will undoubtedly tide you and offer a point of difference.
As a next-gen title, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is faultless, locking in at a solid 60 FPS at 1440p, if playing on Series S or if you’re experiencing it on the Series X or PS5, you’ll be able to play at a cool 4K with the same frame rate. If you’ve got a TV or monitor that supports 120 FPS, you can choose the fidelity setting and experience more frames than a Crucible final, but at the sacrifice of resolution, which will just be bog standard 1080p.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 Remaster is for all purposes, a phenomenal example of a remaster done right. It delivers a modern-looking game that manages to hold onto its nostalgia and bring its timeless stylings to an all-new audience. While the gameplay can feel a little wooden and dated at times, it remains a bonafide classic that delivers both as a single and multiplayer offering. The quality of life improvements don’t quite elevate it to modern standards, with its aged mechanics sometimes making it feel a little obtuse. Regardless, it endures the test of time thanks in no small part to the incredibly accomplished job done with the remaster.
- Looks gorgeous, with phenomenal use of lighting
- More nostalgic than a trip down memory lane
- Legacy jams still slap
- Just a little button-bashy
- Some cumbersome moments
- Can feel dated